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Tuesday, September 27, 2022
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FAA’s UAS Task Force Wraps Up Drone Registration Discussions

Whether it is a drone landing on the White House lawn or a near miss with a commercial plane, drones seem to be flying everywhere—often in places they are not supposed to be—prompting safety concerns. With estimates that hundreds of thousands of drones will be under Christmas trees this year, the pressure is on the Federal Aviation Agency (FAA) to ensure their safe operation in US airspace.

With the surge in drone popularity, the sky is growing increasingly crowded. As of August 9, 2015, the FAA has reported more than 650 sightings of unmanned aircraft systems (UAS) near airplanes, compared to 238 in the year of 2014. Some of these sightings were by pilots of commercial aircrafts flying at altitudes of up to 10,000 feet despite that fact that current FAA regulations prohibit drone users from flying their aircraft above 400 feet.

As drone hobbyists continue to flout FAA guidelines, the FAA’s ability to safety integrate UAS into US airspace has been called into question. In response, the agency has been exploring newways to ensure that the promising uses of the technology do not become overshadowed by a safety incident that could have been avoided with proper training on UAS safety principles.

“In recent months, we’ve seen an increase in reports of UAS coming too close to manned aircraft and airports,” FAA Administrator Michael Huerta said during his opening remarks for the first UAS Registration Meeting. “Some have interfered with wildfire fighting in California, and one crashed into a stadium during a US Open tennis match. These incidents make it clear: we must work harder to ensure a strong culture of safety and responsibility among unmanned aircraft enthusiasts.

“There’s no single solution for how we do this,” Huerta added. “The integration of unmanned aircraft is multi-faceted, and our approach must be as nimble as the technology itself.”

In an effort to reign in the misuse of UAS, the FAA recently announced the creation of a task force to develop a registration system for drones. Over the past several weeks, the UAS Registration Task Force participated in several meetings to discuss how the registration process will play out, wrapping up its final day of meetings earlier this month.

“Registration will give us an opportunity to educate new operators about airspace rules so they can use their unmanned aircraft safely,” said Huerta. “It will also help us more easily identify and take enforcement action against people who intentionally violate the rules or operate unsafely.”

Task Force members include industry representatives and government officials representing a range of stakeholder viewpoints. Membership is invitation-only and was extended to those with knowledge about unmanned aircraft, technology, public policy, and the aviation industry.

The newly created Task Force has been charged with providing guidance to the FAA on a registration system for aircraft under 55 pounds. Some of the considerations were how to make the registration process user-friendly to the consumer while still providing accountability, what information should be collected, age requirements, and whether registration should include a formal educational component.

Huerta believes education and training are critical tools to ensure safe operation of drones and compliance with regulations.

“Registration will give us an opportunity to educate new operators about airspace rules so they can use their unmanned aircraft safely,” said Huerta. “It will also help us more easily identify and take enforcement action against people who intentionally violate the rules or operate unsafely. A perfect example of this occurred last week, when a drone carrying mobile phones, drugs and hacksaw blades crashed into a prison yard in Oklahoma. Perhaps registration would have helped authorities quickly identify the owner.”

The Task Force also grappled with questions regarding size and weight limits of drones, as well as whether each drone sold should have its own serial number or if there should be a mechanism for tying a particular drone to a particular user.

With the holidays right around the corner, the Task Force operated on a tight timetable. The deadline for recommendations is November 20 and final rules will be implemented in mid-December, meaning a drone registration system will likely be in effect by Christmas.

“Please think big, and think outside the box,” Huerta challenged the Task Force. “Take the interests of all stakeholders, of everyone who will be affected by registration, into consideration, and you need to factor that into your conversations and deliberations.”

Homeland Security Todayhttp://www.hstoday.us
The Government Technology & Services Coalition's Homeland Security Today (HSToday) is the premier news and information resource for the homeland security community, dedicated to elevating the discussions and insights that can support a safe and secure nation. A non-profit magazine and media platform, HSToday provides readers with the whole story, placing facts and comments in context to inform debate and drive realistic solutions to some of the nation’s most vexing security challenges.

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